Let me start by saying I am NOT a vet, doctor or anything certified to give professional advice on this topic; I am just here to tell you what worked for our family dog and Baby Bear. We have a chocolate lab/mystery mix of a dog that is about 45 lbs and very sweet. I grew up having large labs in the house, but Papa Bear never had family pets so I took the lead on this introduction. I took it in phases as I believe dogs are very smart and can grasp things far beyond what we give them credit.
Phase 1 – While Pregnant: While I was still pregnant we starting putting baby items around the house beyond just the nursery. Especially baby toys that look like his dog toys and began to distinguish for him the difference between baby toys and dog toys. He did great with this phase which I know other dogs struggle. It was important to put the baby swing or bouncy chair in the common areas because our dog had to get used to there being stuff in his space.
We also had his sit next to me as I sat on the floor so he could both see my growing belly and hear the heartbeat. We have a very calm dog so once you could push you head to my belly and hear the heartbeat, we had our dog lay his head on my belly. Of course, we have no idea if he put this all together or just thought I was getting fat, but like I said I think they are very smart creatures.
Phase 1 – Still in the Hospital: This is a VERY important one in my mind. We took the blanket Baby Bear was first wrapped in and had my parents take it home so the dog could smell it and get used to that specific sent. Come to find out he took the blanket and would sleep with it every night we were in the hospital. Dogs sense of smell is so strong this is a very important one for them to feel comfortable with a new smell in their established space. If you do nothing else on this list – definitely do this one!
Phase 3 – At First Sight: If you had your baby in the warm weather months try to introduce the dog to the baby outside so it is on neutral ground. Leave the baby in the car seat and let the dog smell the baby and hear the heartbeat. We had Baby Bear in the middle of a snowstorm so this was not an option for us. We still introduced the baby to the dog while Baby Bear was still in the carseat though, this helps a lot! Then I sat down on the floor where I used too while pregnant and held Baby Bear so our dog could see the transition from belly to baby. After a few smells, Papa Bear played with our dog a lot so there was no jealousy established at the beginning. Then Papa Bear held our baby to reintroduce the baby to the dog so our dog didn’t think the baby was just mine.
Phase 4 – Long-term Relationship: Even if you have the worlds sweetest dog, never leave your dog and your baby together unsupervised – not even for a second. I would put our dog in the sweetest dog competition but I never leave him alone with our baby. Every day when we do tummy time or our baby just wants to lay on the floor the dog comes by and smells him. Our dog hates when the baby cries so tummy time is a challenge for the pup. While this is very sweet of our dog remember how dogs pick up their puppies (they grab them by the back of the neck) and you will see why it is so important never to leave them alone. The dog could have great intentions but doesn’t understand how aggressive that act is on a human, let alone a baby. I still sit on the floor with our dog and Baby Bear and I believe this is establishing a relationship between the two of them independent of myself or Papa Bear. Our dog doesn’t like when strangers get too close to the baby, or when people ring the doorbell (actually he never liked that part) so I know one day Baby Bear will throw the ball for our dog and they will be close.
Let me know if you have any other tips and trick to this relationship, I would love to learn from other Momma Bears out there on your experiences!